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Iron Maiden were first formed in 1976 by bassist Steve Harris, who would soon join up with rhythm guitarist Tony Parsons, drummer Doug Sampson, and vocalist Paul Di'Anno. Before finally obtaining a record deal, the group played in local areas throughout the '70s, receiving a fair amount of London airplay. Parsons replaced Dennis Stratton, and the band made its record debut in 1980 with the self-titled Iron Maiden album. Although the release was recorded in a hurry, it was nonetheless a hit in the U.K. due to the single "Running Free." Iron Maiden's 1981 follow-up, Killers, displayed a harder approach to their music than before, and also saw the replacement of Stratton with Adrian Smith. Due to his uncontrollable alcohol addiction, Di'Anno was forced to part company with the group and would soon be replaced with vocalist Bruce Dickinson in 1982 for the band's groundbreaking Number of the Beast. This album, boasting such songs as the title track and "Hallowed Be Thy Name," would come to be known as one of the greatest rock recordings of all time. Since the unexpected worldwide success of Beast made Iron Maiden international rock superstars, they changed very little of their style for their next album, Piece of Mind. They undertook two major tours before recording 1983's Powerslave, which would go on to be another cult hit. The product of Powerslave's 11-month tour was 1985's Live After Death, a double live album that featured all of their biggest hit singles.
By the release of Live After Death, Iron Maiden had already established themselves as a powerful and unique metal band. Their long-awaited 1986 supplement album, Somewhere in Time, showed a bit of a departure from their past releases, showcasing the use of synthesizer guitars and songs more relevant to the same themes. Released in 1988, Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, a concept album like its predecessor, featured the singles "The Evil That Men Do" and "The Clairvoyant," and soon became Iron Maiden's most critically acclaimed album since Number of the Beast. After another exhausting tour, Smith departed and the band took a one-year hiatus. With new guitarist Janick Gers, the band resurfaced with No Prayer for the Dying in 1990, a record that returned to the classic sound the group used when recording its earlier releases. One of the album's singles, "Bring Your Daughter...To the Slaughter," was granted the Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Song of the Year, but it nonetheless gave the band its first number one U.K. hit. By the time the group finished its 1991 tour, Dickinson expressed his desire to leave and promote another band he had founded, the Skunkworks. Fear of the Dark, the band's last album with Dickinson, debuted at number one on the U.K. charts and became one of Iron Maiden's biggest-selling albums to date. After their supporting tour, two live albums were released in 1993: A Real Live One, which contained live versions of their newer hit singles, and A Real Dead One, which featured the more "classic" Maiden songs live.
Dickinson's replacement, Blaze Bayley, marked his debut in 1995 with The X Factor. While the record failed to chart as well as some of its predecessors, it was still a minor success in England. Iron Maiden marked the end of 1996 with Best of the Beast, a double compilation album. In 1998, little interest in the Virtual XI album prompted Bayley's termination; Dickinson and Smith returned to the band for a tour in 1999, and a new album, Brave New World, emerged the following year. The band toured throughout the early 2000s, releasing the live Rock in Rio and the greatest-hits collection Edward the Great in 2002, followed by a new studio album, Dance of Death, in 2003. They followed DOD with the Rainmaker EP, as well as the live DVDs History of Iron Maiden, Pt. 1: The Early Days and Raising Hell in 2004. Sanctuary put out the two-disc The Essential Iron Maiden in 2005 to coincide with the group's co-headlining an Ozzfest tour with Black Sabbath, a tour that found Maiden pulling out due to a series of confrontations with Ozzy's wife/manager, Sharon. They released the live CD/DVD Death on the Road in September of 2005 and a collection of new material, Matter of Life and Death, in 2006. In 2009 the band released the soundtrack for the film Flight 666, a documentary/concert film recorded in 16 different cities during the group's first leg of their 2008 "Somewhere Back in Time World Tour." In 2010 the band released its 15th studio album, The Final Frontier, followed in 2012 by En Vivo!, a live video/album filmed at Estadio Nacional, Santiago, Chile in April 2011. ~ Barry Weber, Rovi